With Michigan Stadium ruled out as the venue for spring commencement and student opposition mounting against holding the ceremony at Eastern Michigan University’s Rynearson Stadium, students are beginning to explore alternative campus sites for the event.
One venue many students said they’d prefer over Rynearson Stadium is Crisler Arena, home to the Michigan basketball and women’s gymnastics teams. Crisler Arena, located just east of Michigan Stadium, can hold 13,609 people, about a one-tenth of the Big House’s capacity.
In an interview Tuesday, Royster Harper, the University’s vice president for student affairs, said the University hadn’t ruled out Crisler Arena as a potential venue for commencement, but said it would only consider Crisler if an overwhelming majority of the senior class demanded the move.
“If there was a cry from the folks that are really affected – these current seniors – and it was 80 or 90 percent of them, that would be worth a pause,” Harper said.
Although the move to Crisler Arena would keep commencement on campus, which many students want, University officials say there are several reasons the move could hurt the ceremony.
First, it would greatly limit the amount of tickets available to graduates for commencement. University officials said graduates would receive eight tickets each if the event were held at Rynearson Stadium. At Crisler, only two or three tickets would be available to each graduate.
LSA senior Craig Cleary said he was disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to receive his diploma in the Big House, but would rather keep commencement at Rynearson Stadium so he could invite more guests.
“I would be opposed to Crisler simply because we could only have two or three family members,” Cleary said. “And I know I have more people that want to go, like my parents and grandparents and my brother and all.”
If the ceremony were held at Crisler Arena, the University would have the option of using nearby Hill Auditorium as an overflow seating venue, said Sue Eklund, associate vice president for student affairs.
Eklund said a video feed of commencement could be provided at Hill Auditorium for additional guests to watch the ceremony.
LSA senior Eric Portenga said his extended family would be willing to watch commencement from an overflow if it ensured that his graduation ceremony remained on campus.
“They said, ‘Look, this is your day, and we’re fine with having closed-circuit television at Hill or other locations on campus,’ ” Portenga said.
Holding the ceremony at Crisler could create accessibility problems, though, because Crisler contains far fewer wheelchair-accessible seats than Rynearson Stadium.
Rynearson Stadium, which has a total capacity of 30,200, contains 177 handicap-accessible seats, according to the Eastern Michigan Athletics Department. Crisler has just 18 wheelchair-accessible seats, said Rob Rademacher, an assistant athletic director.
Students have also proposed other locations on campus for commencement, including the Diag and Palmer Field, both of which are outdoor sites.
LSA senior Eric Victorson, creator of the Facebook group “Michigan’s Graduation is meant to be at the BIG HOUSE” – which included almost 3,000 members as of last night – said students he’d talked to suggested holding commencement in the Diag.
Victorson proposed placing the speaker’s podium on the front steps of Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, with rows of seating extending back to North University Avenue and even onto Ingalls Mall if necessary. He suggested placing speakers throughout the Diag to amplify the commencement proceedings.
More than anything, Victorson said, he wants commencement held somewhere on campus, whether inside or outside.
“I’m sure there’s a creative way to make a maize-and-blue graduation happen somewhere on campus, whether that’s Crisler, the Diag or even the Big House,” he said.